Yep, I confess I’m an opera fan, but I have to admit, it’s a pretty weird art form—the only one that I know of with a specific date of birth and a narrative history, all grounded on a historical mistake (link). And it has come to be rooted—okay, stuck—in the 19th Century (don’t let them kid you, nobody goes to a “new” opera more than once, except as a condition of probation).
[B]etween 1848 and 1914 the opera became the queen of Dionysian art forms and cults. Of Baroque origin, like the museum it moved out of its courtly environment into the public sphere, bringing along most of its architectural and reportorial endowment. In fact, the opera never ceased to be courtly, and after 1840, by moving into new houses and acquiring a new repertoire, it became increasingly stately. Behind grandiose historical façades, the grand staircases, tiered loges, and mannered foyers were ideally suited for the rites of imitation that promoted and reflected the aristocratization of the bourgeoisie. Steeped in historical lore and received musical constructs, the operatic librettos, scores, and productions were no less conducive to this lasting remobilization of
—Arno J. Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime 210-11 (1981)
Less and less interested in entertaining or achieving some ideal of stylistic purity, he turned to celebrating and reconstructing the social order of the German empire. Like his close friend Gottfried Semper, the preeminent architect of Baroque monumentalism in
Be interesting to know (but I don’t suppose I will know) how some future cultural historian will understand the place of opera in our own time. I’d be interested in particular to know what he makes of video simulcasts (but that is way ahead of the story).